Article by Airman 1st Class Rochelle Clace • Photos by Staff Sgt. Chad Chisholm
Airmen from the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Fuels Management Flight keep the fuel flowing for combat airlifters by leading the way in the testing and fielding of more economical, environmentally friendly and sustainable aviation and ground fuels.
The base uses a lot of fuel to power successful operations as the world’s premier C-130 base. In order to maintain the base’s mission of answering the call to fly, fight and win, wherever combat airlift is needed, the fuel must keep flowing and the need to pursue less hazardous, environmentally safe fuels is higher than ever.
The fuels management flight has been selected to test two types of aviation fuel in an effort to save money and the environment.
“We’re the only base in the Air Force simultaneously testing the two types of aviation fuels,” said Senior Master Sgt. Donald Graham, 19th LRS fuels flight chief.
The first is the commercial grade Jet A. This fuel is cheaper and more common throughout the aviation industry; it’s a straight petroleum-based fuel.
“The money-saving difference is the potential for less additives. Fewer additives mean less hazardous, less expensive fuel,” said Sergeant Graham.
“Jet A becomes [similar to] JP-8 when we receive it and mix three different additives,” said Airman 1st Class Clinton Anderson, a 19th LRS fuels distribution operator. A static dissipater, a corrosion inhibitor and lubricity improver, and a fuels system icing inhibitor all of which meet military specifications.
“The theory is that if we can remove the additives, we can save the Air Force up to four cents per gallon with an estimated annual savings of $40 million” in the United States, said Airman Anderson.
Although fuel handling procedures for mechanics, fuel handlers and fuel system maintenance personnel do not change, the Air Force has the possibility of reducing the production of hazardous waste by eliminating the fuel system icing inhibitor from bulk fuel tank bottoms.
The second type of aviation fuel the base is testing is synthetic jet fuel, called SPK. It’s designed to reduce dependency on foreign oil.
“[This fuel] is derived from coal or natural gas by a 1920’s process known as Fischer Tropsch Synthesis. We are testing a blend of 50 percent JP-8 and 50 percent synthetic,” said Airman 1st Class Ronnie Miller, a 19th LRS fuels distribution operator.
“That means we can buy 50-percent less foreign oil if we adopt this type of fuel,” said Sergeant Graham.
The Air Force is dedicated to developing and implementing fuels which are better for the environment, are based on renewable resources, reduce dependence on foreign oil and save money.
The 19th LRS led the way in implementing successful E85 and biodiesel operations for ground equipment, and are blazing a path for the implementation of SPK and Jet A fuels. E85 is a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Biodiesel is 80 percent diesel and 20 percent organic byproduct, such as recycled cooking grease from restaurants.
“Our efforts here will provide an Air Force-wide source of information on how these aviation fuels will affect aircraft, pumping systems and refueling vehicles,” said Sergeant Graham.
The Air Force consumed almost 2.5 billion gallons of aviation fuel in fiscal year 2007 at a cost of almost $5.6 billion, according to Air Mobility Command. Aviation fuel accounted for approximately 81 percent of the total Air Force energy costs.